SPRINGHILL - Mayor Allen Dill is expecting public outcry after Springhill raised its taxes during a special meeting Tuesday, which also saw the passing of its budget.
The residential and commercial tax rates jumped 15 cents to $2.25 and $5.38 per $100 of assessed property. In the long haul, Mayor Dill said, a home assessed at $50,000 can expect to pay $75 more.
"The previous council lowered the tax rate 2 cents so we had to automatically increase the rate 4cents to catch up with inflation," Dill said.
Garbage collection, too, will increase $10 per year and sewage rate increased $25 to $175 for the year. Council did drop, however, a controversial $24 fee on tax bills that was being used to pay for a new fire truck for its volunteer force.
Council was elected in October into a fiscal year marked with unexpected costs and expenditures, Dill says, including an agreement through the Police Association of Nova Scotia that ran upwards of $500,000 more than expected. Service Nova Scotia, the mayor said, has offered relief but expects changes from Springhill in how it prepares for the future.
"The budget process involved citizen input and also involved all directors and council in several six-hour meetings to go through the budget," Dill said. "Service Nova Scotia gave us permission for the deficit from the PANS agreement to be done over three years, however, they've also cautioned us to start a reserve fund for unforeseen circumstances like the court order to pay in the PANS agreement."
The town will have to provide Service Nova Scotia with is plan in September of this year showing how it will be dealing with the deficit and its reserve fund.
Sharing the burden with its citizens, Springhill made major cuts to its budget, putting an end to its financial support of a tourist bureau and lowering its season and part-time hirings. Directors also did not receive increases to their budgets mirroring inflation.
"I think that when you realize that in Nov. when council was advised our debt-ratio was 23 per cent and couldn't borrow and Springhill's debt-ratio is now 13 per cent we're below where we came in," Dill said.
Springhill has a future, Dill says, and projects the community hitting sustainable levels between two to two-and-a-half years from now.